About winderjssc

Jessica Winder has a background in ecological studies in both the museum and the research laboratory. She is passionate about the natural world right on our doorsteps. She is enthusiastic about capturing what she sees through photography and wants to open the eyes of everyone to the beauty and fascination of nature. She is author of 'Jessica's Nature Blog' at http://natureinfocus.wordpress.com. Jessica has also extensively researched macroscopic variations in oyster and other edible marine mollusc shells from archaeological excavations as a means of understanding past exploitation of marine shellfish resources. She is an archaeo-malacological consultant through Oysters etc. and is publishing summaries of her shell research work on the WordPress Blog called 'Oysters etc.' at http://oystersetcetera.wordpress.com 'Photographic Salmagundi' at http://photosalmagundi.wordpress.com is a showcase of photographs and digital art on all sorts of subjects - not just natural history.

Large Jellyfish at Rhossili

 

Yesterday (27th July 2014) I walked along Rhossili beach from one end to the other and back again – a distance of about 10 kilometres. I followed the high tide strand line most of the way and saw 16 large Barrel Jellyfish, also known as Dustbin-lid and Root-mouthed Jellyfish (Rhizostoma octopus Linnaeus) – but there could have been more. They were various sizes and states of maturity. I put a seashell beside each one I photographed to give an idea of scale. They were different shades of pink and blue colour. Their condition varied, too. Some were freshly dead and well preserved but others had been split or torn, and some were beginning to decompose by “melting” into the sand. They were lying at different angles. Some were dome upwards and others were upside down. All are harmless – no danger from stings to holiday makers. They are a relatively common sight on beaches of the Gower Peninsula in South Wales. However, they have been appearing in very large numbers along the Coast of Devon and Cornwall this summer, which is an unusual occurrence, and there has been a lot of coverage of the phenomenon in the media. There are more posts about Barrel or Dustbin-lid Jellyfish elsewhere in Jessica’s Nature Blog from sightings in previous years on Gower.

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A Walk to Mewslade Bay

It is sheer delight from the moment I walk out the door of the one-up one-down cottage known as The Slope. In May, the house martins fly right past carrying food to the youngsters in the coal shed; while the clematis and honeysuckle flowers on the fence provide a safe nesting site for blackbirds. A few yards more and the still pond at Mewslade View is home to beautiful blue iris. The field is covered in lush grass with blossoming plantains; this is the field that is mowed for the Caravan Club visitors to park. Beyond, a flock of sheep clear Nitten’s Field for a re-seeding of wild flowers that will supply food for migrating birds. This year there will be extra red poppy flowers planted to commemorate the centenary of World War I.

The boundary between the private land of Nitten’s Field and Mewslade valley is marked by a stile made of driftwood. From this point you can see right down into the steep-sided dry valley that leads to the sea and Mewslade Bay. The shape of the valley is partly due to it lying along a geological fault line, and partly due to quarrying activities in times gone past. Once the stile is negotiated, you are on public footpaths that lead in various directions. – the coastal path that follows the cliff tops in both directions along the southern shore of the Gower peninsula; back up the valley to the village of Middleton; or down the slope to the bottom of the valley and the beach. The scree-covering on the lower slopes is the result of peri-glacial activity. Access to the shore is via a narrow rocky fault gully but only at low tide as the sea comes right up the gully at many high tides.

If you arrive too early to get on the beach because of the tide, you can walk around the valley sides finding wild flowers and exploring the small caves high up the slopes. From a high vantage point looking east, you can see the dipping rock strata beneath Thurba Head. Looking in the other direction towards Fall Bay, Tears Point, and Worms Head, the high-tide waves lap the jagged dark rocks that project into the sea – Carboniferous limestone with numerous pits created by bio-erosion into a karstic landscape.

The ripping and tearing of the rocks along the fault-line has created some very interesting geology at the gully, with many rock types embedded in white crystalline calcite. This fault breccia can be seen in the solid rock of the gully and in large boulders on the ground. The force of the pounding sea has worked away over the years to carve out interesting tunnels, arches, caves, and blow holes around the entrance to the bay.

As the tide begins to recede, you can see small seashore creatures that cling to the rocks – invertebrates like limpets, barnacles and small periwinkles taking advantage of every nook and cranny.

When at last the tide ebbs, you can get onto the beach. This shore has seen dramatic changes in preceding months. By May this lovely family-friendly sandy beach was recovering nicely after seriously strong seas whipped all the sand away in the first few months of the year. At that time there was nothing but a jagged rocky platform, with a revelation of strata and fossils that most people had not seen before in their lifetime. It wasn’t an altogether unique event for Mewslade – it has been recorded before – but it was a rare circumstance. Mewslade was not alone in suffering this albeit temporary fate. Beaches along many British coasts were severely eroded. Many, like Mewslade, have recovered but some have been changed for ever.

Where the sand has not quite reached its former levels, a white band of crystalline calcite remains exposed at the base of one of the bio-eroded limestone cliffs. Across the shore, numerous rocks with fantastical sculptural shapes are scattered – their forms resembling the peaks and troughs of whipped meringue or cake frosting. Some of these rocks contain fossil corals, bivalves, and marine snails.

I can’t wait to discover more about this fascinating place on my next visit.

COPYRIGHT JESSICA WINDER 2014

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Thames Sparkles

Coruscating river water

Funny Fungi at Kew

 

These huge willow basketwork sculptures were made by Tom Hare and displayed in the open-air setting of Kew Gardens in London during September 2013. Inspired by a visit to Kew’s fungarium, the sculptor and artist created this work called “Fungi Fairy Ring” by weaving willows onto steel frames. Some of the willows were stripped of bark to achieve a whiter colour that suggests the pale parts of fungi; while other willows were boiled to give a darker appearance like that found in the gills. Altogether a very striking and apt display to enjoy on a late summer walk around Kew.

COPYRIGHT JESSICA WINDER 2014

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Animals in the Museum 1

This gallery shows a small selection of the animals you can find if you go “on safari” in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Sometimes the animals are out in the open and easy to spot; others are small and well hidden away from the view of most visitors. They can be made out of almost any material, and the examples shown here are made from silver, stone, micro-mosaic, ceramic, and glass. They form part of testimonial silver sculptures, clock furniture, carved memorial edifices, sweet boxes, stained glass windows, plaques, and tile-work.

COPYRIGHT JESSICA WINDER 2014

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Eype Beach Stream 3

Little pebble bridges over a beach stream

On the western half of the shore at Eype in Dorset, England, the cliff is basically made up of porous yellow sandstones and limestones, belonging to the Middle Jurassic Down Cliff Sand Member and Thorncombe Sand Member, overlying the pale, blue-grey micaceous silty mudstone and shale known as the Eype Clay Member. All three members belong to the Dyrham Formation.  Rainwater soaks down through the upper porous rocks but, when it reaches the lower clay-based strata, it seeps out to the surface and drains away down the cliff face to the shore in numerous small streams.

The picture above, and the short video clip below, show one of these little streams running over the clay where someone has artistically constructed small pebble bridges over the flow. The last image in the post illustrates the general appearance of the cliff face with the small streams issuing from the lower layers.

Blue-grey clay and yellow sandstone strata at Eype Beach

COPYRIGHT JESSICA WINDER 2014

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Just a Common Whelk Shell (3)

Lots of barnacles on a whelk shell

Whelk shell with an encrustation of mostly acorn barnacles – some complete with all plates and in other areas only the basal plate remains

Acorn Barnacles (Cirripedia) settle on almost anything in the sea or on the seashore. These images show the empty shell of a Common Whelk (Buccinum undatum) that I picked up on the beach at Rhossili on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales – it has proved to be an ideal substrate for them.

The outer surface of the shell is almost entirely covered with barnacles. The majority are intact with the lateral and also the terminal plates. Many specimens are mature but there are juveniles too. In one area, the barnacles have been knocked off but you can still see the basal plates by which they were attached. Some barnacles may have been living on this common British seashell while it was still alive. However, it is equally possible that the shell became colonised by barnacles once it was empty. The few calcareous tubes of marine worms which are stuck on the inner surface of the aperture or mouth of the shell would have settled there once the whelk flesh had disappeared.

The close-up shots reveal the details of the structure of the barnacles, made up generally from six fixed lateral plates overlapping each other to form the shell for the animal, with four articulating terminal plates forming the lid to the chamber. The whole barnacle shell is in this instance securely attached to the whelk shell by a basal plate that often remains in place even when the barnacle becomes detached. Not all species of barnacle have a basal plate.

The macro-photographs also show the intricate pattern and texture of the whelk shell surface with a regular criss-crossing of ridges. This gives an almost lattice-like effect where the growth lines intersect with the natural ornamentation or sculpturing of the shell. In close-up, it is also possible to see small areas of the colonial microscopic animals called Bryozoa or Sea Mats (resembling fragments of lace) which are clinging to the bases of some of the barnacle shells.

Macro-photograph of growth lines and natural sculpturing on a whelk shell

Close-up image of pattern and texture in a barnacle-encrusted whelk shell

Barnacle encrustation on a whelk shell

Whelk shell with mature and juvenile barnacles attached

Macro-photograph of growth lines and natural sculpturing on a whelk shell

Close-up image of growth lines and natural sculpturing in a barnacle-encrusted whelk shell

Apertural view of epibiont encrustation hard parts on a Common Whelk shell

Whelk shell with barnacles attached to the outside and calcareous tubes inside

COPYRIGHT JESSICA WINDER 2014

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